Airbags are standard equipment on many cars these days, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have both taken the position that airbags save lives. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that close to 2,500 people survive accidents each year that would have been fatal but for the presence of airbags.

What are Airbags?

Airbags are tough plastic devices hidden in your car’s dashboard and other pieces of the inside trim. There are several types of airbags such as driver-side front, passenger-side front, side curtain and rear seat airbags. The newer your car and the more expensive, the more likely it is that you have some or all of these airbags as part of your car’s standard package. Few cars on the road today have no airbags at all, as the use of them became standard in the 1990s. The only cars today that usually lack airbags are “antique” or restored vehicles, although a few early 1990’s models may not have them as standard equipment.

There are a few negative safety factors involved in the use of airbags. Airbags have actually been known to cause severe physical injuries in the course of an accident due to the tremendous force of their inflation. Thousands of pounds of pressure are placed on an airbag within a few milliseconds to allow them to inflate quickly enough to save passengers from impact with the interior surfaces of the car. This tremendous force can cause an airbag to hit a person’s face or body with such force that the impact can result in broken noses, damage to teeth, broken eyeglasses, and even chest bruising. Of course, if a wreck is severe enough to cause an airbag to deploy, it is likely that the passenger is still safer even with the concomitant injuries of the air bag than without it.

How much can I save on car insurance with an Airbag discount?

Because airbags keep you and your passengers safe from the risk of serious injury, car insurance companies tend to view them as benefits and may offer a discount on premium rates for those policies related to personal injury. For example, some companies offer a “safety” discount of 10% for those cars that have specified safety features such as airbags, seat belts, and other safety equipment. However, airbags will not affect your premiums for insurance policies unrelated to personal safety, such as your collision or comprehensive policies.

Auto insurance companies recognize that airbags can cause injury, but this is generally not a factor in their premium calculations. After all, it is likely that without the airbag the company would have paid far more in bodily damage injury, so it is in the company’s best interest to pay for slight injuries caused by airbags rather than encourage people not to use them.

However, the degree to which airbags affect your insurance premiums is directly related to how safe your vehicle is to begin with.

If you own a sports car with no rollover safety features that is capable of 150 miles per hour, it is doubtful that the addition of airbags is going to significantly reduce your insurance premiums. This is because the company realizes that your car is inherently much less safe than a family sedan and prices its insurance products accordingly. Airbags will not have much effect in an accident in this type of car, so you do not get as much credit for them. On the other hand, if you have an “average” car, you will probably see a significant reduction in your insurance premiums with the addition of airbags and other passive restraint systems.

If you have anti-lock brakes, blind spot assistance, backup assistance, daytime lighting, and other safety features built in to your car, you will probably enjoy larger insurance discounts than someone who has only airbags. On the other hand, you can lose your safety discounts and other discounts by having a poor driving record or several at-fault accidents in a short period of time. Your driving record can cause you to have far greater car insurance rate increases than any discounts you receive for safety features, so given a choice between safe driving and safety features on your car, safe driving is always a better option.

The best way to get and keep the highest levels of discounts on your car is to check out your insurance company’s policy for safety discounts before you purchase a new vehicle, then keep your speed down and avoid accidents if at all possible. By taking a pro-active approach to your car insurance, you can enjoy discounts and low premiums.